We moved into our row house in Brooklyn a year ago. The very night after we moved in, we met the neighbor across the street — let’s call him Buck. We met him not because he came over to our side of things, but because he established what has become a pattern for many nights:
1) Leaving his front door standing wide open.
2) Hanging out on his front porch or in the doorway (shirtless about 85% of the time).
3) Playing music at significant volume (sometimes Britney, sometimes Israeli).
4) Speaking. LOUDLY. (Loudly enough that the first time we heard him we thought there was an argument — it turns out this is his normal speaking voice, perhaps somewhat amplified by the music volume.)
5) Often with up to six others.
6) For hours at a time.
7) Sometimes with his three gigantic dogs, whom he seems to train by literally yelling at them.
Mix and match; this happens pretty much every evening and some afternoons when the weather is anything other than brutal.
Now: America! That means he’s got a right to be on his porch, being noisy, having his door open and playing with his dogs. I get that. I get that I sound a little snooty here. But he is literally the only person on the block who does it, and he is literally the guy directly across the (single lane) street from us. He doesn’t go until all hours (though on weeknights it can go until 11 p.m.) and there’s not a “disturbance” factor that would warrant calling in authorities.
Meanwhile, my husband is particularly sensitive to noise — it rattles him in a way that it doesn’t rattle me. I do dislike, when I’m working in my office, not being able, because of Buck’s music, to have open my windows that face the street, but I put on a white noise app and I’m OK. My husband, who grew up in a more suburban environment, really finds this gets on his very last nerve, which means it bothers me as well.
But: I’ve been concerned about how, or if, to approach it. On the one hand, I don’t think the guy is evil: when our dog got out, he grabbed her out of the street. On the other hand, he flew a Trump flag during the campaign, which put me on high alert. I worry that if we say anything, we risk escalating the problem — or at least alerting him that he’s got our number. So what do you think is the best way to handle it? Or should we just suck it up and count it as life in the big city?
Any thoughts are welcome, and thanks. — Everybody Needs Good Neighbors
Honestly, I would probably move. Because what’s the best case scenario here? You tell the guy his loud music, gigantic dogs, and shirtless torso are cramping your style, and suddenly he closes his door and turns his music down? Not gonna happen. I think your concern about escalating his behavior is valid. Especially if the guy’s a Trump supporter. We know Trump supporters aren’t exactly fans of diplomacy, and many of them seem eager to fight. I could see someone like your neighbor getting pissed that you’d move into HIS neighborhood and then try to tell him how to live. And who knows what payback for such assertion might look like. The guy’s got three gigantic dogs. They probably take pretty gigantic dumps…
That’s not to suggest you shouldn’t say anything to the neighbor, but I would be prepared to move pretty quickly if your request is met with resistance. You need to be specific and reasonable about your request (like, say, asking that music be turned down by 8 p.m. on weeknights), and have in place a plan for moving in case you need to get out of Dodge quickly. Maybe moving to the ‘burbs isn’t such a bad idea? But if you decide to stay in the city, I’d vet your neighbors and neighborhood very well (and I say this as a New Yorker who knows the drill). Stop people on the street or talk to people sitting on their stoops and porches. Ask what the noise is like (especially in the summer). Is there a neighbor people have problems with? Does that neighbor live close to your potential new place? What’s the traffic noise like? Are there bars or restaurants on the block? If so, visit the block when those establishments are busiest and see what the noise is like on the street.
A couple months ago, when we found a place we really liked, we rang the neighbors’ doorbells to ask about noise; one of the neighbors invited us into his home and answered lots of questions for us. (He told us our potential downstairs neighbor was crazy and also had a big, loud dog.) I also posted on the neighborhood Facebook page and asked if anyone lived in the building or nearby and could answer questions about noise. I met one neighbor for ice cream, and she told me that they didn’t realize how noisy the block was until the day after they closed on their condo seven years earlier. The noise had not gotten better in that time.
When you decide to live in a big city like New York, you have to accept that there are certain risks: seeing rats on the subway, getting bed bugs, having really loud neighbors (and, friends, all this can be yours, too, for the low price of $3700 a month for a modest 3-bedroom). Fortunately, living in a big city means you’re often spared the reality of Trump flags waving proudly in the breeze (unless you live somewhere like Bay Ridge or Staten Island). If you have to deal with some of the pitfalls of city-living AND the discomfort of having a Trump supporter as a neighbor, maybe moving really is your best bet. I’ve heard good things about Montclair…
I’m so much better now, and I’m finally happy with myself. I’m now happier than I was before! I’ve always missed him, but recently he’s come back into my life in a greater capacity. Since the breakup I have tried moving on, I’ve met multiple new guys, and I’ve talked to a few others, but none of these efforts have panned out. It’s always me that stops things progressing, because these other guys just aren’t Charlie. When I’ve been with these other guys, I still think about Charlie and I still want him.
Charlie’s been in a new relationship now for about nine months, and he’s told others that he still can’t get over me and that he’s unhappy in his relationship a lot, so what do I do? I’d feel horrible if I hurt anyone over this, and I really don’t know what to do. The only thing I know (as cliché as this is going to sound) is that our story isn’t over.
What should I do, Wendy? Am I wrong to still want him? How would you cope with this situation? — Story-Teller
I’d be direct and simple with him: “It’s been two-and-half years since we broke up and I’m in a completely different place now, mentally. I still have feelings for you, and, while I know you’re in a relationship now, I’m wondering if you still have have feelings for me and whether you’d be interested in giving our relationship another try?” You do risk your ex’s girlfriend getting hurt, which you say you don’t want, but look at it this way: If your ex does still have feelings for you and would be interested in getting back together with you, his girlfriend isn’t the right match for him and would get hurt eventually anyway.
If your ex isn’t interested in reuniting with you, it’s better you find out right away and move on already rather than spend any more time romanticizing what you had or what you think you could have. You say that your story isn’t over yet, but that doesn’t mean it has a happy ending or that it’s a story worth continuing. Maybe it is! But I’d also venture to say that not letting go of this story for the last couple of years could be a big reason why you haven’t found a deeper connection with anyone else yet (that, and you were also focused on stabilizing your mental health, which, of course, is a bigger priority).
You say that you’ve always stopped things from progressing with others guys because they aren’t Charlie. What if it turns out Charlie actually isn’t “It”? And what if, instead of ending things with other guys, you let relationships grow? You might find that the happier story lies elsewhere. But if you need to see whether the Charlie chapter is truly over before you can move on, do it — ask him and then move on (whether it’s with him or without). But remember that he does have a girlfriend and, regardless of what you’ve heard about their relationship, she has feelings–feelings that will likely be hurt by your pursuing her boyfriend.
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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.